PhotoKlassik is a one-of-a-kind magazine on film photography.
It’s released quarterly on 100 pages of thick photo paper. Every run, currently at 10,000 copies per issue, is professionally colour graded and bound at a reputable German press facility.
My copy, II.2019, took exactly two weeks to arrive in Vancouver in a neat, plastic-free package. With shipping, it came up to €22, which is a fair price for what you get.
Over the past two years, I got involved with a few small print publishers, particularly the ones who distribute photography-related content. PhotoKlassik being one of them.
I admire their determination to design, edit, print, bind, and distribute this type of material. The results often show more breadth than video, blog, or podcast streams. The paper is capable of preserving its worth far beyond the fleeting traces of data on brightly-lit screens.
Design, typography, editorial choices, materials — all reveal something new about the person(s) who created the book. There are a lot of nice things that the printed page has we are missing online.
Of course, not all books will suit all readers. In this review, I will go over the magazine materials and assembly, which I think play an important part in justifying the cost. Followed by content and design, to be dissected in detail.
✪ Note: this article includes “affiliate” links, clicking which may lead to a small percentage of a sale sent back to me — at no extra cost to you. I plan to put these proceeds towards the increasing costs of running Analog.Cafe website. Your support is appreciated; purchase your copy here.
Paper, binding, and dyes.
I was brought up in an artist family and, having a technical background as a programmer, designed countless interfaces, including many printed products. Being a near-sighted person, I am able to notice some up-close details that people with better eyes may not.
After ripping through the compostable cardboard parcel, a barely-perceptible layer of selective gloss on the magazine cover caught my near-sighted eye. The gleam mask evidenced an additional level of depth and contrast just for the hero photograph.
Leafing through, I found the inner pages to be identical to what you’d expect from a photo book: heavy, lightly-textured, with a moderately-reflective bright-white profile.
The binding that keeps it all in one piece is pleasantly flexible and secure. I own a few books printed on thick, expensive paper stock with the pages fastened so tight they’re impossible to crack open. PhotoKlassik, on the other hand, is easy to spread without any fear of having it split in half.
The ink forms a good coat without any defects. There is no pixelation in any of the images; the individual pigment dots are impossible to distinguish. My only complaint is the shortage of two-page photo spreads, which give photographs a theatric appearance with these materials.
Being a paperback, the magazine’s cover is prone to wear, though it is about twice as thick as the leaves. Overall, the stack is quite hefty, weighing about as much as my Vitessa rangefinder. In hand, the magazine feels somewhere half-way between a coffee table publication and a collector’s item. A friend blindly estimated its value at the double its actual price.
The contents of the magazine are split into three non-sequential sections: portfolios, gear, and “the world of analog.” Each column is either written by the editorial team, guest author, or a transcript of an interview. Most of the articles are well-researched reports and essays written about notable artists or technology.
Interestingly, the European publisher chose American spelling style throughout: analog as opposed to analogue. PhotoKlassik’s US-English print is well-edited for grammar and style, far more so than most things you’d find online (as expected).
In preparation for this review, I read every word in the magazine. The cover story about Christopher Burkett, written by Charys Schuler, is my strong favourite. Indeed, all of Charys’ columns are very well put together. Her language is elegant while still free of flowery wordings. The stories she compiled for PhotoKlassik are on esteemed photographic artists, narrated clearly, to the point, serving the reader first. A pleasure to pour-over.
The vast majority of the content in the magazine boasts a high level of written competence. PhotoKlassik’s editorial team publishes work by a relatively large number of international guest contributors and, undoubtedly, faces some language barriers as it operates out of Germany. The resulting portfolio pieces, technical articles, and industry accounts appear to be well-researched and meticulously revised.
PhotoKlassik’s established appeal to analogue photographers is never betrayed. Everything inside the issue is on-point. Even the ads are appealing.
Though the PhotoKlassik’s price per issue is somewhat hefty, the publication seems to go out of their way to deliver value. Inside, you’ll find very little commercial real-estate. Other than at the back and index pages, you have to search for the ads. Once located, they are relevant and well-designed.
Some ads, like the Kodak’s back page cover in III.2019, made the news as the first of its kind in decades. My issue comes with a full-page JCH Street Pan commercial, which looks beautiful. Bellamy, the owner of the JCH brand, is also a regular non-commercial contributor to the magazine.
My least favourite pieces are the interview transcript and two topic fragments, which you’d have to assemble with missing installments. While it is expected of the magazine to encourage the reader to get a full subscription, the issues come once every four months, with the first one being almost completely sold out already. These circumstances could make piecing things together quite difficult. As for the transcript, I’m simply not a fan of the format.
There are some passages in the magazine that I felt needed more editorial involvement, like Lina Bessonova’s “A Meeting of Hearts and Minds” with scant grammar and stylistic flaws. To be fair, Lina is a Russian photographer working in Italy with an English-language column at a German magazine. There are a lot of obstacles to written perfection here. Besides, I would be thrilled to learn from someone like Lina, nevermind the language.
Type and layout.
All the text in the magazine is arranged in either two or three columns per page. Legible in either configuration.
PhotoKlassik makes use of both serif and sans-serif styles. I like the serif choice; it’s easy to read, even when condensed or into small-type. If it were up to me, I’d use it in all paragraph bodies, over having altering typefaces between articles.
The layout seems to be well planned out, thought the quality of the paper and ink is such that I’d like to see more full-page image spreads. The one I have in my issue is awe-inspiring.
Should you choose to spend your cash on this magazine or a roll of slide film is entirely up to you. Above, I stated a reason for my favourable bias. With Analog.Cafe being in the business of actively encouraging all things analogue, however, this isn’t out of character.
I think that PhotoKlassik is a quality, valuable publication for the film photography community as a whole. I certainly enjoy owning my copy.
PhotoKlassik International is produced by Silvergrain Classics, a small business in Rheinböllen, Germany — one hour east of Frankfurt. You can learn more about how they formed down the page here. You can also support them, Analog.Cafe, and your curiosity by buying your copy today.